Shopping may be a national sport, but there’s more to the scene than record-breaking retail centres. We highlight the best of the city’s smallest to boost your purchasing prowess.
Headline-grabbing launches like the recent Mall of the World tend to dominate conversation among the city’s most ardent spenders. Promising a city within a city, the Sheikh Zayed Road development is set to be built over the next ten years, and when complete you’ll be able to peruse hundreds of stores in a centre roughly four times the size of The Dubai Mall. For those of us who aren’t strangers to losing whole days to the mammoth Downtown shopping centre when you only nipped in for a shirt, the idea of malls getting any bigger is mildly terrifying. So let’s take a step back from all the supersized excitement – you’ve got ten years to work out a fool-proof remember-where-the-car-is strategy, and ten years to explore the quainter delights of Dubai’s shopping scene. Away from the headlines, there are dozens of smaller shopping malls around town housing all manner of hidden delights and great buys.
Jumeirah Town Centre Jumeirah This Jumeirah Beach Road shopping centre sets the tone for a surprising number of the road’s mini malls, with a handful of its outlets dedicated to getting crafty – check out Café Ceramique (04 344 7331) to paint your own crockery, or head to Craft Land (04 342 2237) to get to grips with sewing, knitting, quilting, embroidery and more. Meanwhile, Paper Lane (04 344 3636) specialises in scrapbooking, stamping and arts materials, and also offers classes and birthday parties. The mall is also home to Boom & Mellow (04 344 4512) boutique outlet, a party shop and The World of Pens (04 349 1022) – devoted, as the name hints, to the sale of luxury writing equipment. Fancy a bite to eat? Don’t miss Mama Tani café (04 385 4437), an Arabic spot serving pastries, hot drinks and juices. Jumeirah Beach Road (04 344 0111).
Jumeira Plaza There’s something faintly Jurassic Park-esque about the signage for this mall. Fortunately there aren’t any raptors stalking the alarmingly pink atrium – instead you’ll find a number of surprisingly good shopping haunts. Downstairs peruse Arabic goods, plus kiosks selling health supplements and, erm, flowers. Pick up elaborate Persian rugs, vibrant, sparkly abayas, a new read from the quaint House of Prose (04 344 9021), Arabian trinkets from Damascus Palace (04 344 1808), or get into remote control cars and planes at Hobby Sportz (04 227 7086). Upstairs, there are two haberdasheries selling everything from colourful cotton to sewing machines, plus maths and music centres, Art Stop (04 349 0627) for art supplies and a party store. Jumeirah Beach Road, Jumeirah 1 (04 349 7111).
J3 Mall This glitzy little spot in Al Manara stands out on Al Wasl Road thanks to the shiny frontage of Johnny Rockets (04 325 1411), Tim Hortons and Cold Stone Creamery (055 213 6151). But it’s not all burgers and ice-cream in here – there’s a ladies-only Fitness 360° gym (04 380 9969), women’s boutique Spera (04 380 4023) featuring pieces by locally-based European designers, and By Ambreen (055 105 7831) a store selling dazzling Pakistani garments for women. Among electronics stores, banks and the a Choithrams store (04 388 3443), there are also Signature Lounge grooming spots for him and her (04 388 4771), plus a cute Plants and Flowers florist (04 422 4616) for last-minute bouquets. Al Wasl Road 04 388 4433).
Beach Centre Inside this instantly recognisable but perhaps not hugely familiar blue block on Beach Road lies a little haven of crafts supplies. There are two Creative Minds/White Star art stores (04 344 6628) selling paints, materials, papers, embroidery threads and much more. There’s also a party shop, fancy dress store Mystique Dubai (04 349 4719) selling a range of outfits and Rocky Mountain Chocolate Factory confectionary outlet (04 349 1137), plus a kiosk selling regional dates where you might get some free tasters if you’re lucky. Jumeirah Beach Road, Jumeirah 1 (04 344 9045).
The Village Mall Perhaps best known for its, courtyard-style Shakespeare & Co café (04 344 6228), this Beach Road spot is both indoor and outdoor in its setup. Head upstairs to the women-only and environmentally-minded Eco Yoga (04 385 6633) or downstairs to peruse Candella (04 342 1961) and S*uce (04 344 7270) boutiques, Organic Foods & Café (www.organicfoodsandcafe.com), Julian men’s hairdressers (04 344 9006), Sisters Beauty Lounge (04 342 0787) and treats from Hey Sugar (04 344 8204). We love the silver in Stone Fine Jewellery Boutique (04 342 7050) and kid’s boutique Lolly Pop (04 349 4946). Jumeirah Beach Road, Jumeirah 1 (04 349 4444).
Karama Al Attar Centre Located at the centre of Karama’s Kuwait Street, this shimmering gold building houses a number of bargain clothes shops, cheap jewellery and hair accessories kiosks, plus dozens of purveyors of colourful, squidgy smartphone covers. Shopkeepers are friendly and chatty, inviting shoppers in to peruse goods and offering generous discounts. In addition to a small Chowking (04 335 8737), there are a couple of tiny Asian eateries serving interesting snacks and affordable refreshments. Kuwait Street, Karama (no number).
Bur Dubai Al Khaleej Centre It’s for one reason that most people visit this obscure Bur Dubai shopping spot, and that’s to peruse the mall’s very own ‘Technocity’ – the entire mezzanine level is devoted to electronics and technology, with stores selling laptops, PCs, smartphones, mobiles, cameras, sound systems, home electronics and more. Once you’ve got the gadget you were after, have a quick peek at the kiosks on the ground floor for trinkets and affordable jewellery, or stop off at the food court, home to a number of one-off, affordable Indian food vendors. Al Mankhool Road (04 355 5550).
Al Ghazal Mall Sitting at the corner of Al Wasl and 2nd December Street, this typically quiet mall is perhaps best known for housing the city’s most well-stocked and elaborate fancy dress shop, Mr Ben’s Costume Closet (04 346 3422) where Halloween outfits are sold and rented out weeks in advance. There’s also a Carrefour Express (04 346 1236) for affordable grocery shopping, plus an outlet of Brands for Less (04 358 8630), a franchise of European discount store Tchibo that sells an ever-changing stock of goods, from clothes to kitchenware, bedding to pet accessories. 2nd December Street, Satwa (04 345 3053).
Sheikh Zayed Road Mazaya Centre Among all of this, Sheikh Zayed Road mall’s many quirks, the offices and apartments in the upper portions, with windows facing into the mall, are by no means the most unexpected. Nor are the clown statues that welcome you through the car park. Without doubt the standout feature here is the Pier Import (04 343 2002) homeware store, which along with the usual suspects sells a collection of original, vintage pieces including a 1970s Magnavox 400 Stereophone record player, Motorola antique console tube radio, old brass weighing scales, typewriters, and a huge range of retro cameras. It’s not cheap, but certainly worth a nose around if you’re into conversation-starting pieces. Elsewhere, there are stores selling glamorous dresses, a Brands department store (04 321 4488), salon, Danial Restaurant (04 321 4555), a huge play area to keep the kids busy, plus an enormous Homes R Us (04 321 3444). Sheikh Zayed Road (04 343 1092).